If you’re concerned about your family’s nutrition, you may have heard the term “clean eating” in your searches for healthy meal plans and ingredients.
What is clean eating?
Clean eating is a way of looking at the ingredients you put into your body and choosing only whole, unprocessed, and mainly plant-based ingredients. Unrefined and unprocessed grains, flours, and sugars, as well as organic vegetables and fruits and plant-based proteins are the cornerstones of a clean eating plan. This kind of plan reduces the amount of by-products and unnecessary ingredients in your diet, allowing you and your family to consume only what is whole and fresh.
Why should a childcare center serve healthy, organic meals?
At Summit, a commitment to clean eating is one of our core values.Why should a childcare center serve healthy, organic meals with carefully sourced ingredients to the children in its care? Schools and daycare centers often rely on processed snacks and meals throughout the day to feed the kids in attendance, but focusing on clean eating gives students sustained energy, real nutrition, and exposure to foods they otherwise might not sample outside of daycare.
Summit makes every snack and meal that our kids consume throughout the day, and we make almost all of our food from scratch. We stay away from processed foods, fried foods, refined flours, grains, and sugars, and red meat. In fact, we have even reduced our reliance on dairy products and meat-based proteins, relying on plant-based proteins from soy, legumes, and seeds. That means that the children we care for each day are exposed to superfoods like chia seeds, quinoa, and lentils. We even sneak vegetables into everything we make, from pancakes to grilled cheese sandwiches! Best of all, we prepare healthy meals that kids love to eat!
All of our meals are served family style, with teachers and children sitting together and learning how to stay still, serve food to one another, and eat as a group. To us, the process of learning to enjoy meal time, use it as a time to quiet our bodies and strengthen our relationships with those around us, and feel grateful for the healthful food before us, is just as important as the healthy, clean eating menu we present to our kids.
The benefits of clean eating
The parents in our school community are pleased with the results of our commitment to clean eating. Since many home cooks don’t know how to prepare clean, whole ingredients in a way that is palatable for young children, many of our parents have been delighted to learn that their children actually enjoy lentils and chickpeas, or are trying new vegetables and flavors. The teachers at Summit Kids Academy encourage those children to at least try something new. Surprisingly, after a couple of bites, the children confess that they like it, often asking for seconds or thirds and licking their bowls! This helps families to become more adventurous when they’re planning meals at home. Incorporating lentils and quinoa into dinner is a lot easier when you know your child isn’t going to wrinkle his nose at an unfamiliar ingredient!
Introducing this kind of healthy eating plan sets the stage for a lifetime of healthy eating choices. Our teachers talk with the kids about what it is that they are eating, what food groups are represented, where their protein comes from, and what superpowers each food has, as a way of getting kids interested in what they’re putting into their bodies. This will help kids to truly think about and make conscious choices about their food choices throughout the rest of their lives. Plus, our approach to meal time sets children up for an ongoing philosophy that honors meals and appreciates the sanctity of meal time. In our classrooms, we make mealtime a ritual, complete with soft music, discussion, and involvement from the kids in terms of serving and sharing. This helps kids to value the ease and the mindfulness of mealtime, instead of learning to wolf down their food or turn their attention toward screens during meals.
Tips for clean eating
If you’ve been thinking about incorporating clean eating into your family’s lifestyle, remember to look for only unprocessed and unrefined foods, and favor veggies, fruits, and plant-based proteins while incorporating less and less dairy and meat. And remember to think about what your daycare center or school is serving your children as well.
If the place where your kids spend so many of their hours throughout the week is serving healthy meals and snacks to your kids, you can feel confident that your healthy eating plan is being carried throughout the day each day, with your children receiving the kind of sustenance and nutrition you know will keep them energized and focused throughout the day.